I gotta be me

The song “I Gotta Be Me” has been performed by lots of singers since it first appeared in a Broadway musical in 1968, Golden Rainbow, written by Walter Marks.  Everyone from Sammy Davis to Stevie Wonder to Tony Bennett and most recently by Cory Monteith as Finn Hudson on the TV series Glee have performed it.  Why is it so popular?  I think it is because the lyrics resonate with our deepest convictions.  I know it speaks it me to the point I choke up nearly every time I hear it performed.

For those of us with RA, we struggle with finding and keeping the “me” we now “gotta be”.  One could argue that RA robs us of our identity, especially in the early stages when the fear and changes are overwhelming.  Where is the “old me”? Will I ever be the same?

I realized as time went on coping with RA, that despite the changes thrust upon me thanks to a chronic disease, I still believed and lived by the notion that “I gotta be me”. There are some really powerful lyrics in this song that I feel speak directly to those of us dealing with RA.

“I want to live, not merely survive
And I won’t give up this dream
Of life that keeps me alive

I gotta be free, I’ve gotta be free
Daring to try, to do it or die
I’ve gotta be me”

What a mantra that is to live by!  It can truly be a guiding force when you are doubting your resolve.  So often when we are in the midst of the chronic pain and stress and doubts and fears that accompany RA, we feel like we have lost ourselves, never to be found again.

But when that happens, we must push the pause button, take a step back, take a deep breath.  Only then can we fully examine who we are.  I know that over the 15 years of having RA I have certainly changed.  Some good, some not so good.  The not so good are mostly out of my control and are the direct result of the limitations caused by RA.  OK, so those I can not do much about.  But there is still A LOT I can control.   I can control who my “RA team” will be.  I can control my attitude.  I can control who I choose to share my life with, both professionally and personally.  I can control what activities that are available and possible for me I will participate in and when and with whom I will do them.

The good changes that have accompanied RA are that certain aspects of my life are now crystal clear to me.  There is no cloudiness when it comes to who I am and what I need to manage my RA.  I have done the time, figured it out, sorted out the options and know the process inside and out.  There is always room to learn more, grow in my management of RA, add tools to my RA Toolbox, etc. but I am determined and confident that after all is said and done “I gotta be me” or life with RA will not be successful and THAT is NOT an option!

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